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Child abuse is defined as the ill-treatment of children under the care of those who should provide for them properly. This is considered morally wrong, particularly because of the trust a child would put in their caretaker or parents, allowing abusers almost free rein to do what they like without too much fear. Although, if they are caught, child abusers are usually top targets for vigilantes.
There are, sadly, many forms of child abuse, some intentional and some not. Regardless of intent, abuse often has lasting impacts, such as PTSD, low self esteem, depression, and anxiety.
Physical and emotional abuse are not mutually exclusive, as many components of physical abuse also inflicts emotional harm to the child. Children who are abused may be inadvertently taught bad social and/or emotional skills in the process, including passive aggressive behavior, other relational aggression, self-hatred and doubt, etc.
Physical abuse involves intentional use of force that results in injury or pain.
- Corporal punishment: slapping, kicking, choking, biting, pushing, burning, etc.
- Physical restraint (such as tying someone to a chair or pinning them to the ground)
- Intentional sleep deprivation
- Sexual contact with children
Despite claims that spanking isn't abuse, researchers have found that in addition to worsening behavior, spanking can cause reduced IQ, mental health issues, and violent behavior later in life. Parents should try nonviolent forms of discipline if they want their children to behave.
Emotional abuse involves tactics that degrade and control the victim.
- Manipulates the child and plays "mind games" with conditional love as a reward.
- Uses put-downs, intimidation, humiliation, personal attacks, and other types of bullying.
- Mocks, humiliates, or makes sarcastic jokes about the child in front of other people.
- Deprivation of privacy: snoops in the child's bedroom or journals, or removes doors from rooms.
- Sets the child up to fail.
- Routinely compares the child to other people (even siblings), damaging self esteem and fostering resentment among siblings.
- Routinely blames and guilt-trips the child, refusing to take responsibility for the adult's own faults.
- Attacks the child's self-worth.
- Isolates the child from their peers or from adults who could help them, or tries to destroy these relationships.
- Acts passive-aggressive, then blames the child for being scared or confused.
- Withholds affection as punishment.
- Demands respect and deference.
- Destroys the child's property or even hurts their pet(s) as punishment.
- Uses "diaper discipline," by forcing a toilet-trained child to wear a diaper; making them breastfeed or use bottles, diapers, and other baby tools may also occur.
- Allows the child to witness other people (children or adults) being abused.
- Forces the child to lie about important matters.
- Criticizes the child for showing signs of abuse (such as self-harm or suicidal ideation) and calling it personal weakness
- Denies harm if the child is upset, and blaming the child for "overreacting" or "lying."
Not every abuser will do all of the above. Even one or two of these can have serious consequences.
Child neglect means failing to meet a child's needs for health and safety.
- Leaving kids home alone without age- or ability-appropriate supervision[note 1]
- Ignoring the child's need for food, shelter, clothing, medical attention, etc.
- Failure to help with hygiene or keep the home hygienic
One case of neglect involved parents ignoring children in order to spend time on the internet.
- Refusing to vaccinate one's children (except where the child has an allergic or otherwise adverse reaction to vaccines).
- Not seeking proper medical care for religious reasons.
- Factitious disorder imposed on another (FDIA, formerly known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy). Factitious disorder is a psychological condition in which someone fakes an illness to get attention and sympathy from medical professionals. When imposed on a child, a parent forces their own child to become sick, usually through the ingestion of pills, other poisonous chemicals, feces, or other pathogenic materials. Julie Gregory described being the target of her mother's abuse in sickening detail, including (as demonstrative and not exhaustive examples) the aforementioned administration of medication and giving her a diet based on what doctors had told her not to eat.
More controversial forms
Some members of RationalWiki also think there are other forms of child abuse, which can be equally harmful to the child and equally bad for the society in which it occurs. These are controversial mostly because a large portion of the population do it and consider it perfectly acceptable.
- Denying the child access to facts about the world they live in.
- Telling the child lies about the nature of other people.
- Refusing to expose the child to ideas outside a small range.
- Indoctrinating the child in religious (or atheistic, or political) mythology.
- Using the religious idea of eternal damnation to frighten children into following certain rules (such as the rule of belief in a god).
- Telling the child that their race, religion, gender, disability, or country is intrinsically better or worse than all others.
- Teaching children to feel guilty about natural sexual development.
- Telling a child what to think rather than teaching a child how to reasonably think for themselves.
- Hell Houses
- Mutilating the child's genitals, whether male, female, or intersex.
- Catholic Church
- Child sexual abuse
- Richard Dawkins on religious child abuse
- Dynastic gymnastics — a Russian treatment that involves swinging babies around, sometimes quite violently
- Focus on the Family
- Paida lajin — a treatment devised by Hongchi Xiao that involves slapping people as young as 6 years old
- Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
- To Train Up a Child
- Autism Uncensored
- Religion's Real Child Abuse by Richard Dawkins
- PZ Myers lists some Papal excuses
- The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- Most US states have laws against leaving a child under thirteen home alone.
- Jessica Bennett. "Coloring Outside the Lines." The Daily Beast. 2007 December 1.
- What Is Physical Abuse? - Healthy Place
- What Is Emotional Child Abuse? - Very Well Family
- Preventing Emotional Abuse - Prevent Child Abuse
- Child Abuse and Neglect - Help Guide
- "Nev. couple blame Internet for child neglect." Associated Press. 2007 July 16.